MEP Cristiana Muscardini @ European Business Summit 2014: International Trade in Europe

Christiana Muscardini

Cristiana Muscardini, Italian MEP, European Conservatives and Reformists Group, Vice Chair of Committee on International Trade

Written by Cristiana Muscardini, Italian MEP, European Conservatives and Reformists Group, Vice Chair of Committee on International Trade

The common commercial policy is a pillar for the external relations of the European Union. It is based on a set of uniform rules under the Customs Union and the Common Customs Tariff and governs the commercial relations of the Member States with Non-EU Member Countries. 

The purpose of the instruments of trade defence and market access is mainly to protect European businesses from obstacles to trade. The EU has evolved during the process of globalisation by aiming for the harmonious development of world trade and fostering fairness and sustainability. 

It actively encourages the opening of the markets and the development of trade in the multilateral framework of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). At the same time, it supports developing countries and regions through bilateral relations with a view to involving them in world trade using preferential measures.

This is just a summary of the EU external trade as it appears on the European Commission website. Clear objectives which sound differently when applied at the reality. We face serious concerns which we shall oppose with a steady hand and a determinate political decision. I am speaking about dumping, counterfeiting, unfair trade, lack of reciprocity in the application of the rules, made-in labelling, human rights’ protection, different customs’ rules, food security and health care, etc. .. 

Therefore the opening of markets worldwide has created problems we are not longer able to face with our previous instruments. 

Protectionism has always been the general rule when a product was trying to invade a market, destroying local production. Today the common rules is the respect of treaties born to prevent protection and distortions. 

Trade policy, among others, became an exclusive EU competence on which the European Parliament has a great responsibility. This condition gives the chance to fill the gap between businesses and Institutions on one hand and allows MEP, elected by the citizens, to mange a stronger political and legislative role, raising their voices in the dialectic approach with the other EU Institutions.

Made-in Regulation is a practical example. It is a Parliament proposal (adopted twice by a large majority) on the compulsory indication of marking of origin of products entering in Europe form third countries, the same regulation nowaday in force in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, China and other major EU trade competitors and partners. 

I was rapporteur on this Regulation in October 2010 and I have tabled “ad hoc” amendments covering marking of origin label in the last Regulation on the Consumer Products Safety adopted by the Plenary last. 

The Council had deaf ears to this request, remaining divided without having a majority of countries in favour. Germany and some northern European countries strongly opposed, threatening in this way the right of citizens to be duly informed on the origin of the products they purchase on the market and thus reducing their quality. The same situation repeating with the fight against counterfeiting and dumping. Besides the complexity and the long duration of these procedures, a waste of time for businesses having to face unfair competitors, several governments, especially those of non-manufacturing countries, still do not consider anti-dumping or anti-counterfeiting procedures as appropriate measures.

Unfair competition produces victims and many companies, especially small ones, are forced to close their doors. Another handicap for Italian firms is the complexity and cumbersome of bureaucracy governing our customs. A container that comes to Genova takes a week to be cleared through customs, if the same container reaches Rotterdam harbour takes only one day. 

It is easy to see the damage caused by this difference in timing. I fought for years in the Parliament asking common rules for the European customs without any result.

We do not doubt EU strategy to strengthen economic relations and to defend European interests worldwide but we do ask for common rules especially in a globalised world. EU should adapt its objectives bearing in mind the current global challenges and the importance of EU sustainable growth by 2020. We do need to conclude Doha Round negotiations, moving forward with Bali declarations and insist on the importance to ease the access of developing countries to external markets, mainly in the areas of services and agriculture. We do need to increase the WTO dispute settlement systems and its supervisory capacity; to increase its IPRs and businesses innovation, its policy on public procurements and competition; its attention on consumer choices and protection.

We should give importance to the EU investment policy, especially for SMEs when they try to penetrate in third countries’ markets. 

Next EU Elections in May shall represent another step forward in the creation of a trade policy which  will be able to eliminate distortions weakening EU businesses and consumers. A policy which will launch on third markets quality products, the excellences of our countries. I do hope that the newly elected members will follow the path we have already traced in order to create a fair and better global trade.

About the Author

Cristiana Muscardini (born on 6 November 1948 in Cannobio) is an Italian politician and Member of the European Parliament for North-West Italy with Conservative Social Reformers’ Movement. Muscardini has sat in the European Conservatives and Reformists group since October 2012. She sits on the European Parliament’sCommittee on International Trade and is a substitute for the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety.

Muscardini was formerly a member of the National Alliance and the Italian Social Movement. She was a co-president of the Union for a Europe of Nations and general secretary of the associated Europarty, the Alliance for Europe of the Nations. She joined the Group of the European People’s Party when the National Alliance merged with Forza Italia to create The People of Freedom in 2009. In 2010, Muscardini joined the dissident group Future and Freedom, led by Chamber of Deputies president Gianfranco Fini. She is regional coordinator in Lombardy for the pro-Fini Generation Italy foundation.

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